Pope Francis speaks up for ‘harshly exploited’ agricultural workers
Pope Francis gives his general audience address in the apostolic palace May 6, 2020. VATICAN MEDIA
By Courtney Mares
Catholic News Agency
May 6, 2020
VATICAN— The coronavirus crisis can be an opportunity to recenter work on the dignity of each person, Pope Francis said in an appeal at the end of his general audience broadcast on Wednesday.
“On May 1, I received several messages about the world of work and its problems. I was particularly struck by that of the agricultural workers, among them many migrants, who work in the Italian countryside. Unfortunately, many are very harshly exploited,” Pope Francis said May 6.
“It is true that the current crisis affects everyone, but people’s dignity must always be respected. That is why I add my voice to the appeal of these workers and of all exploited workers. May the crisis give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and of work the center of our concern,” he said.
Amid fears of a food shortage, the Italian government is currently discussing whether to legalize some undocumented migrant workers. These workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation with illegal contracts that can pay less than half of Italy’s minimum wage for the agricultural sector.
May 1 is recognized as Labor Day in Italy and many countries throughout Europe, however it is not an official holiday in the Vatican, which instead celebrates the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, established by Pope Pius XII in 1955.
On the feast day, the pope asked St. Joseph to help Catholics fight for dignified work. He prayed that “no one might be without work and all might be paid a just wage.”
Pope Francis said in his Wednesday audience that prayer is “a cry that comes for the heart of those who believe and entrust themselves to God.” The pope began a new cycle of weekly catechesis on May 6 focused on prayer.
“Not only do Christians pray, they share the cry of prayer with all men and women. But the horizon can still be widened. Paul says that the whole creation ‘groans and suffers the pains of childbirth,'” he said, quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“The Catechism states that ‘humility is the foundation of prayer,'” the pope said. “Prayer … comes from our precarious state, from our continuous thirst for God.”
Pope Francis focused his catechesis on the Gospel account of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar from Jericho.
Bartimaeus “uses the only weapon in his possession: his voice. He starts shouting: ‘Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me,'” the pope explained.
“And Jesus listens to his cry. Bartimaeus’ prayer touches his heart, the heart of God, and the doors of salvation are opened for him,” he said. “He recognizes in that poor, helpless, despised man, all the power of his faith, which attracts the mercy and power of God.”
“Stronger than any argument, there is a voice in the human heart that calls out. We all have this voice inside. A voice that comes out spontaneously, without anyone commanding it, a voice that questions the meaning of our journey down here, especially when we are in the dark: ‘Jesus, have mercy on me! Jesus, have mercy on me!’ This is a beautiful prayer,” Pope Francis said.